My War with the MCP

The year was 1982, and a new sci-fi movie was completely blowing our collective minds. Well, actually there were three:

  • ET
  • Blade Runner
  • TRON

I’m going to discuss the third one in the list. And, yes, TRON is technically a BASIC command acronym: “TRace ON.” It was the first time computer-generated graphics formed the backbone of a movie, which ignited a revolution, which has yet to reach its culmination–even though we now have CGI-based AI engines such as MASSIVE that not only will do crowd simulations, but also even adds in the “odd outliers and misfits just as we have in everyday life.” Our modern-day rendering marvels are made possible by massive render farms, which despite different terminology, are effectively HPC supercomputing.

(As an interesting side note, if one pays really close attention in the early part of TRON, there’s a CRAY-1 to be found. And, although it goes full circle, I digress.)

Let’s do a bit of a mind experiment, and by experiment I really mean useless flight of fancy. We’ll start with the part that’s easiest to accept…the world of TRON is real. Inside the CPU core there are all these little programs running around in neon-lit suits that look just like you and me (incidentally, I’m hoping my neon trimming is Jedi blue).

Now, in an HPC system, there’s a queue, so all of our little programs line up in a nice, neat line awaiting their turn to be executed (and I mean that in the best way possible). This queue is special because every now and again the guardian moves down the line reshuffling programs. Also, there are many who are cutting in line or jumping the queue, and the guardian—who clearly sees them doing it—not only allows it, but also actually encourages the behavior. Intolerable.

At least, that’s how I hope my program feels. I know that’s how I feel. I hope somewhere down in the depths of the machine, he’s telling the Man (er… the Computer) what for.

Dear HPC sysadmin, if you don’t want me to game the system, please increase my priority. Pretty please.

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